Thursday, December 27, 2012


The baby Mercedes-Benz CLS is going official at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Called the CLA, it rides on the same platform as the A and B-Class compact premium cars, but is a sedan. Its main competition will come from the upcoming Audi A3 sedan and BMW 1 Series sedan. These are the first official Photoshopedpromo pictures.

Being the latest baby Benz, the CLA will surely sport similar engines to its A and B brethren, as well as some from the bigger C and E-Classes. These include the 1.8-litre turbo worth 90kW for the CLA 180, and a CLA 250doing 155kW. Diesels will feature prominently too, especially for the European markets. Of course the CLA 45 AMG is also being developed and should spew about 260kWby our calculations. Even if it’s slightly less it should still be pretty decent off the mark.


Audi, having targeted the year 2016 as the one in which it unsettles BMW as the world’s biggestmaker of premium cars, changed its mind and shifted the target to 2020. And in order to do this effectively it will invest €13 billion (about R150 billion today) in itself.

It was almost exactly a year ago when Audi first made the announcement of the investment and said it would spend it over four years, starting in 2012. So far the plan is going ahead. Over 1200 new people were hired at Audi this year in order to bolster these plans.

The main sponge to suck on the money will be the two German factories in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, both of which will take €8 billion (R90 billion). Development of new products is of the utmost importance, and so are new technologies, engines and efficiencies. The electrification of the car is also on the cards, as well as renewablefuel strategies.

All these actions are meant to take Audi to the top of the premium ladder by 2020, thereby surpassing BMW. By then Ingolstadt plans to be selling over 2 millioncars per year. BMW on the other hand, is targeting that same sales figure for 2016 already…


Amid “Festive” cheer and noises, Mercedes-Benz revealed the new facelift E-Class. We were expecting the car much earlier in the year, but that it’s come in 2012 is still fine by us. South Africa,which will see its launch in 2013, could also benefit from the Hybridmodel.

Said E 400 Hybridlooks like quite an exciting prospect as it uses a 3.0-litre V6 engine to pull out 245kW and 480Nm of torque, sprints from 0 – 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, while averaging a claimed 7.5 litres per 100km. These figures compare well against its natural rivals, namely the BMWActiveHybrid 5 and the Lexus GS 450h.

So where did the face lift, so to speak? First place is obviously the uhm, face. The E-Class has adopted the company’s latest look of a wavy front end featuring brand new lights shape and a new bumper. Elegance and Avantgarde models will not look the same however, with the latter getting a sportier feel overall. The rear end is also slightly redesigned.

Good to see that the cabin is also new and fresh, and dare we say, even more luxurious than before. Mainly the dashboard has benefited and now looks like something out of an S-Class. Finishing is of either walnut of something called black ash, depending on the option ticked.

As per Mercedes-Benz tradition, there are more safety-biased technologies to look forward to, including something called Stereo Multi-purpose Camera which uses two cameras set at 45-degrees to over a 3D viewand “can detect vehicles driving in front, oncomingor crossing and evaluate this three-dimensional visual information to determine their speed and position.”

Apart from the hybrid, the engines will remain largely the same, although rumours suggest the 5.5-litre bi-turbo E 63 AMG will get a power boost. Otherwise we are looking at the E 200 with 135kW, E 250 making 155kW, E350 tuned to 225kW and E 500 good for 300kW as far as normal petrols go. Diesels include E 220 CDI (125kW, 400Nm), E 250 CDI (150kW, 500Nm), and an E 350 CDI (185kW, 620Nm).

Friday, December 21, 2012


Ever since PSA Peugeot Citroen established its new alliance with General Motors, things have been happening behind the scenes. The latest of these is that the two companies have confirmedthat they are developing several products together, including some major products.

While not being specific, a joint statement did say that “major product development and purchasing agreements” were signed, and these would include powertrains. This can only be great news for both. PSA needs to significantly lower its purchasing costs in order to compete with the likes of Toyota and Volkswagen, while GM can learn a thing or two about the latest powertrain technology from the French.

Development will include an MPV for Opel and a CUV (cross utility vehicle) for Peugeot, both of which will be in the same segment as the likes of Zafira and 3008respectively. An even smaller MPV for both groups is also on the cards. The cars will be differentiated as per each brand value and will first be seen on global roads from 2016.


Marking another significant step in its plan to further expand its presence in the premium automotive sector, Infiniti today announced details of a new nomenclature strategy to be applied to its complete product range beginning with the 2014 model year. The first model to carry Infiniti’s new Q badge will be the Q50, an all-new premium sports sedan to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in January 2013.

The premium automotive brand will see its model range simply prefixed either by Q – for sedans and convertibles, or QX, for crossover and SUV models. Each model will be further identified by a double digit representing hierarchy within the range. 

This strategic change reflects Infiniti’s desire for clarity and cohesiveness as it embarks on ambitious growth plans, including significant expansion of the Infiniti portfolio. 

Commenting on the revised naming philosophy, Johan de Nysschen, President of Infiniti Motor Company Limited, said: “Over the past few months, we have talked at length with our retailers, our customers, and our business partners about our brand. The need for a new identity and direction to promote consumer familiarity with our model range as we expand the portfolio became evident. To achieve this, we clearly needed a simple and consistent nomenclature framework. After exhaustive research and evaluation, we concluded that ‘Q’ captured the inspiration within the next generation of Infiniti models, as well as emphasizing our performance credentials while harking back to our heritage with the Q45 – Infiniti’s first iconic flagship product in 1989.”

Infiniti’s new nomenclature strategy will be implemented in logical stages within the existing product range, as new model year variants are introduced. The brand’s future plans include a range of next-generation Infiniti models which will carry Q and QX badging from the outset.


Thursday, December 20, 2012


The F-TYPE has undergone its first dynamic challenge outside of Jaguar’s internal development programme, following an invitation to three world-renowned drivers – Martin Brundle, Christian Danner and Justin Bell – to put both 280kW V6 and 364kW V8 prototype models to the test.

In cold and challenging conditions at the UK’s Snetterton 300 circuit and on the surrounding Norfolk roads, the trio of international racing drivers and television presenters – resident in the UK, Germany and the US – were able to experience the F-TYPE’s performance in full.

Their efforts were witnessed by Mike Cross, Chief Engineer Vehicle Integrity, Jaguar, the man who has directed the team which has worked tirelessly to ensure the F-TYPE delivers a truly rewarding sports car driving experience.

“It’s been a fascinating day,” said Mike. “The entire F-TYPE development programme has, from a vehicle development perspective, been focused on delivering a connected sports car driving experience. To witness three respected drivers take to the track and to hear their positive comments validate our work has been great.”

The camouflaged prototype F-TYPE S and F-TYPE V8 S models provided for the test were fully representative of production intent from a dynamic and powertrain perspective. The 280kW F-TYPE S covers the 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 275km/h. Corresponding headline figures for the F-TYPE V8 S are 0 -100km/h in 4.3 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 300km/h. Both feature all-aluminium construction, Adaptive Dynamics suspension and an Active Exhaust system. 

You can view the F-TYPE track and road driving impressions of Brundle, Danner and Bell on our IN4RIDE YouTube page here.



Toyota Motorsport has won the first 2013 Dakar Rally battle by meeting the South African Airways deadline last Friday for delivery of the two Imperial Toyota Hilux double cab pickups that will contest the nearly 9 000-kilometre 15-day marathon race in South America in January.

SAA flew the precious cargo, together with six tons of spare parts and equipment, in one of its Airbus passenger jets to Buenos Aires in Argentina on Sunday. From there the cargo will be trucked to Lima in Peru, where the 34th Dakar Rally starts on January 5. It finishes in Santiago in Chile on January 20.

“It’s been a wild ride already,” said a relieved Glyn Hall, Toyota Motorsport boss and manager of the Toyota Imperial South Africa Team that will travel to South America. “Once the official announcement was made in July that Toyota Motorsport would return to contest the Dakar Rally in 2013 and also for the following two years, we’ve been flat-out preparing for this greatest challenge in off road competition.

“At the same time we’ve been competing in the Absa South African Off Road Championship with the two Dakar Hilux 4x4s in which we took third (Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz) and 10th places (Duncan Vos and Rob Howie) at our first attempt in this year’s Dakar.  We’ve built a brand new evolution Dakar Hilux for Giniel and Dirk to meet the latest regulations and take advantage of everything we’ve learned so far. We’ve also fitted in five days of testing in the sand dunes of the Namib Desert as well as a number of shorter test outings closer to home base at Kyalami.  

“We were obviously better prepared this time after having gone through the whole exercise last year and this, together with the extra time we’ve had, has even allowed us to build two customer Hilux 4x4s for Team Overdrive in Belgium in addition to providing them with five kits to build their own vehicles under licence to us. They will be running four of their SA-built Toyotas in the 2013 Dakar,” Hall added. 

Rob Howie wears several hats in the team. Apart from being co-driver to Vos in both the national championship (which he and Vos won) and the Dakar, he is Hall’s right-hand man, chief fabricator and oversaw the packing and handover to SAA. He probably has the distinction of being the only co-driver in the Dakar who built and packed his own race vehicle.

“The pressure has been huge over the past few months and increased in the run up to delivery to SAA. We’ve been working 24/7 these past few weeks to achieve this.  We’ve had to partially disassemble the race vehicles so they can fit on individual pallets in the passenger cargo hold of the SAA Airbus.  We’ve also had to individually wrap all the larger spare components and pack hundreds of boxes of smaller spares and equipment for stowage in a three SAA containers,” explained Howie.

“Now we have a couple of weeks off to spend with our families over Christmas before we fly to Lima on December 28.” 

The team will be reassembling the vehicles at Toyota Peru’s premises in Lima and repacking the spares and equipment into three support trucks, before a pre-race test and shakedown in sand dunes 100 kilometres away on December 31. The race vehicles will then be prepared for official scrutineering in Lima on January 4 before the rally starts there the next day.    


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The MINI Pacemanis listed as a “go” for BMW South Africain 2013. That’s the good news. The better news is that it comes in huffing JCW form too and that will of course be available for the Mzansi market as well. The Paceman, in case you didn’t know, is what one might call a two-doorversion of the Countryman. It’s a kind of coupe small SUV.

For the John Cooper Works model, MINI used the same 1.6-litre turbo engine to produce 160kWand 280Nm, which are lovely figures any way you look at them. And for its kit, it features some really aggressive looks, including a large front grille with a stacked-out face, big eyes, John Cooper Works badges, side skirts, and two relatively large tailpipes.

The interior still takes up four passengers and features a leather-covered steering wheel, aluminium pedals, the big round infogram, leather seats with contrasting border colours, and others. 


Following its international unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show in early November 2012, the all-new Subaru Forester has been confirmed for launch to the South African market in March 2013. Featuring an all-new design, vast improvements to interior design and quality, enhancements to fuel efficiency and an increase in practicality, the all-new Forester is set to embody Subaru’s brand statement – ‘Confidence in Motion’.

New tech, higher spec

The new Subaru Forester range benefits not only from striking good looks and an all-new interior, but a host of new technologies have been developed to improve the Forester experience overall, with ease of use and peace of mind at the top of the priority list. Improvements in the practicality department include larger door openings and lower sills for easier ingress and egress of passengers and goods. Similar to that of the new Subaru XV, the new Forester boasts a new, crafted interior with marked improvements in quality and functionality, with a higher driving position improving visibility as well. The new Forester also features technological highlights which include a powered tailgate with remote controllability, SI-DRIVE and X-Mode.

Fuel economy during testing has proved to be similar to two-wheel drive SUVs of comparable stature to the new Forester, and new Premium models benefit from start/stop technology to assist in improving efficiency. Safety levels have also increased, with the fitment of seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag) and Subaru’s Ring-Shaped Reinforcement™ technology assisting in the new Forester being awarded five-star safety ratings by ANCAP and EuroNCAP. Other safety technologies including ABS and VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control) are also fitted as standard.

Five new models for SA

The all-new Subaru Forester range will comprise five new models in South Africa, all of which employ proven Subaru Boxer® petrol engines and feature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive™. The new entry-level Forester 2.0 X (six-speed manual) and 2.5 X (Lineartronic™ CVT) models are followed by the mid-grade Forester 2.5 XS, also available with Lineartronic™ transmission. The higher-grade 2.5 XS Premium sees extra luxury items fitted and the new range is topped by the new Forester 2.0 XT Lineartronic™, which makes use of a 186 kW turbocharged Boxer® engine.

Ashley Lazarus, Marketing Manager for Subaru Southern Africa, states that the imminent introduction of the all-new Forester is significant for the South African market, and its local release will be one of the earliest new Forester introductions world-wide. “The all-new Subaru Forester represents a great step forward for our brand and, with the confidence to go anywhere and explore with a fresh-zest-for-life attitude which prepares the Forester driver for adventure, we are confident that the all-new Forester will continue to find favour with South African buyers. In Japan, the new Forester has already set a new sales record in November 2012, ranking fifteenth in overall passenger vehicle sales. The new Forester joins the XV and BRZ as part of a new wave of brand-new products from Subaru and we are excited to make this important announcement.”



Out! The BMW M6 Gran Coupeis officially revealed and the stunner is quite magnificent. Based on the recent-launched 6 Series Gran Coupe, the M6 version represents the epitome of the range, featuring the same four doors and four tailpipes.

The car is blessed with the same 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 engine found in the M5 and M6. It also delivers 412kW between 6000rpm and 7000rpm, with maximum torque of 680Nm made between 1500rpm and 5750rpm. BMW claims it will sod off from standstill to 100km/h in a mere 4.2 seconds and stop accelerating at 250km/h, although an M Driver’s Package will release extra vuma for a 305km/h limit. Average fuel consumption is said to be a paltry 9.9 litres per 100km.

Paired with the engine is the 7-speed double-clutch gearbox that ensures power is delivered efficiently to the 20-inch rear wheels with alloys via the electronic limited slip differential.

The M6 Gran Coupe is decked out in expected M fashion, with M6 emblems on the door sills, leather seats with meticulous stitching, seating space for four adults, a smaller M steering wheel, a roof made of the lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). CFRP also features on the rear diffuser.

We should see the M6 Gran Coupe by June 2013, if not earlier. We reckon it will make its public debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroitnext month, then make its way to Geneva and China later. It should be available to see as well at JIMS 2013.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) today announced that the Ford Struandale Engine Plant will be increasing production capacity of the Duratorq TDCi diesel engine to cater for new demand from the North American market.

The locally produced 3.2-litre Duratorq five-cylinder (i5) turbodiesel engine, which was recently introduced in the New Ford Ranger, will be used in the Transit van when it joins Ford’s North American product line-up for the first time in 2013 as the 3.2 litre Power Stroke diesel. The Transit is Europe’s best-selling commercial vehicle.

“The expansion of our Duratorq TDCi production capacity for North America is an exceptionally proud and important achievement for Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, as it’s the first time we will be exporting engines to the United States,” explained Jeff Nemeth, FMCSA president and CEO.

“Coming on the back of the extremely successful launch of the New Ranger, this will increase our annual production capacity of the Duratorq TDCi engine by over 31 000 engines per year.”  

“The addition of the Duratorq TDCi engine production for North America is in line with our focus on leveraging existing capacity and offering global flexibility, as part of the One Ford strategy,” stated Satya Banda, Plant Manager of the Struandale Engine Plant.

“The expansion programme will see new equipment being added to the current machining and assembly lines, without affecting our current production and global export programme for the Duratorq TDCi engine that powers the New Ranger.”

The Duratorq TDCi will be exported to Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo., which received a $1.1 billion (about R9.5 billion) investment for the Transit programme. Transit production, is scheduled to begin in late 2013.


Land Rover South Africa is launching the new Range Rover big body in January 2013, but prices are now available for those who want to present themselves with the car for New Years. The Range Rover is completely redesigned and features plenty of new kit and apparel. It’s even lost weight.

South Africa only gets two engines, but four different models. The first is a turbo diesel 4.4-litre SDV8 which comes in Vogue SE and Autobiography trims. Vogue SE is cost at R1 464 100, while the Autobiography is on the menu for R1 658 600. Both cars deliver 250kW from this engine, and 700Nm of torque.

The petrols share the same 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine and are also badged Vogue SE and Autobiography respectively. Land rover won’t say exactly how much power this thing delivers but it should be well over 375kW. The Vogue SE is yours for R1 512 300 and the Autobiography goes for R1 706 800.


By delivering a new Popemobile to Pope Benedict XVI Mercedes-Benz continues a tradition, which lasts for 80 years now. Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, personally handed over the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, specifically produced for the Pope with special-purpose body, today at the Vatican.

"It is an honour for Mercedes-Benz to be accompanying His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on his future journeys with our new Popemobile", said Zetsche at the handover of the new Popemobile in Rome. "As such, we are continuing our long-standing partnership with the Vatican. For more than 80 years now, Popes have been able to rely on the quality, safety and comfort of our Mercedes-Benz vehicles."

The leader of the Catholic Church makes use of the Mercedes-Benz Popemobile at a number of public appearances both at home and abroad. It gives him the opportunity to get as close as possible to the public without having to forego the highest possible levels of safety and comfort.  It will be possible to see Benedict XVI tomorrow in the new vehicle for the first time as early as 8th December in Rome, where the Catholic Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception is traditionally celebrated at the Spanish Steps.  

The Popemobile is fitted with the latest technological highlights from the current M-Class. In addition, the vehicle also features a new interior design. Compared with the preceding model, the dome has been extended significantly, providing an improved amount of space and more convenient entry access. The view of the Pope has also been significantly enhanced thanks to considerably larger glass panels in the viewing area, together with large illuminated roof lining. The throne, the central design feature in the interior, bears the embroidered coat of arms of the Holy Father.
As with the preceding model, the body of the new Popemobile is painted in diamond white. And to facilitate frequent transport of the modified M-Class by air, Mercedes-Benz has reduced the overall height of the vehicle by a few centimetres, while at the same time improving the internal standing height.

Work on the new Popemobile began some nine months ago. The vehicle was designed and produced by Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz has been providing vehicles for the trips and official appearances of the leader of the Catholic Church for more than 80 years now. The first Mercedes-Benz for a Pope was a Nürburg 460 Pullman Saloon, provided for Pope Pius XI in 1930. In the 1960s, Pope John XXIII received a 300d Landaulet in the guise of a Cabriolet with automatic transmission. Subsequently, Pope Paul VI first made use of a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Landaulet, followed by a 300 SEL. 
From the 1980s, Pope John Paul II initially also travelled in a vehicle designated as a "Popemobile" - a modified G-Class - to the celebrations in St. Peter's Square. From 2002, he mostly made use of the predecessor to the new Popemobile, which Benedict XVI has also used up until today.

After they reach the end of their working lives, the Popemobiles can be viewed as part of the collections on display at both the Vatican and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.  


Friday, December 7, 2012


Hot on the heels of the launch of the new Focus ST, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) can confirm its smaller sibling the new Fiesta ST is destined for local shores in the first half of 2013.

The all-new model will take Fiesta ST performance to a new level with its 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine delivering 132kW of power and 240Nm of torque. It races from 0 - 100km/h in under 7 seconds, and has a top speed of more than 220km/h. But despite its performance credentials Ford’s advanced EcoBoost technology ensures the Fiesta ST’s frugality.

Developed by Ford Team RS, the new Fiesta ST delivers significant ride-and-handling improvements through the introduction of a specially tuned chassis that sits 15mm lower than the standard Fiesta; Ford’s enhanced Torque Vectoring Control system; and three Electronic Stability Control modes. The technologies were put to the test over 5000 kilometres of driving on Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife.

The new Fiesta ST features unprecedented levels of equipment and specification to suit the sporting driver, with standard Recaro sports seats. It will also be equipped with MyKey and SYNC™, Ford’s voice-activated in-car connectivity system. A new bold and dynamic exterior design drives home the high performance message and features the latest Ford design signatures including a large trapezoidal grille.

The new Fiesta ST was engineered using Ford’s global Performance Car DNA and developed by Ford Team RS, the European arm of the company’s Global Performance Vehicles group.
The experience of the engineering team in working with Ford’s motorsport partners to develop the Fiesta RS WRC, Fiesta Rallycross and Racing Fiesta vehicles, also proved invaluable for developing the new Fiesta ST.

“We’re delighted to be bringing a new generation Fiesta ST to South African performance enthusiasts in 2013,” said Ford Marketing Manager Gavin Golightly. “With the Fiesta ST joining the new Focus ST, we will again be able to deliver a choice of affordable small performance cars that are designed to deliver a unique blend of stand-out styling and dynamic on-road performance with true practicality for everyday use.”



Magdalene Pokbaas and Lesley Lee

The Volkswagen Group recently presented its ‘Best Apprentice Award 2012’ to its top young achievers from all over the world. Volkswagen Group South Africa’s (VWSA) Mechatronics technician, Magdalene Pokbaas was one of the talent recipients at this year’s international awards.

The accolades for excellence and professional competence during vocational training were presented to a total of 29 young talents from 13 different countries around the world.  In recognition of their achievements the award winners were invited to Germany to participate in an exciting three day programme.

After a stringent internal selection process – where competency, efficiency and initiative were evaluated – the applicants were shortlisted and thereafter assessed through individual and group presentations as well as interviews.

Magdalene was ecstatic about her win: “I am so proud that I have been recognised, not only by Volkswagen South Africa but also by the Volkswagen Group. I have worked really hard to develop and prove myself.”

Magdalene started working at Volkswagen in 2000 as a Paint Shop operator. After nine years in the Paint Shop, she applied for a learnership in *Mechatronics at the Volkswagen Group South Africa Learning Academy.

“I successfully completed my Mechatronics NQF Level 4 in April 2012. After three months of experiential in-plant training, I decided to broaden my horizons by starting with gap training in the electrical field,” said Magdalene.

“Magdalene qualified as an electrician in September 2012.  This is testament to this young woman’s drive to succeed,” said Dr Lesley Lee, Head of the Volkswagen Group South Africa Learning Academy.

The awards are held every two years and have been running for the past 12 years with Volkswagen South Africa apprentices receiving eight Best Apprentice Awards during that period.

*Mechatronics is the fusion of four engineering fields namely: Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics and Computer technology. 

//PART 2